In the Gospel for today’s solemnity Our Lord seals a new covenant with his own blood. The old covenant, recalled in today’s First Reading, involved the shedding and sprinkling of blood; the altar represented God, and by sprinkling the blood on it and the people a communion of life was established and would be maintained as long as they followed the precepts that were stipulated. The Lord didn’t need to do it, but after the sins of humanity the people of Israel did. That covenant was renewed over and over again in Jewish worship through the sacrifice of animals and the shedding of blood, and the violations atoned for.
That covenant was just a foreshadowing of the covenant to come. When God became man he chose to become that sacrifice, to shed his own blood in order to establish a new and everlasting covenant. If the blood of animals produced a spiritual benefit for those who were offering it, the Second Reading today reminds us how much more spiritual benefit from the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world. Moses in the First Reading ratified the covenant with the blood of bulls; the Second Reading reminds us that Jesus has ratified the new covenant with his own blood. It’s one thing to sacrifice something of value in order to make amends; it’s a whole other level to sacrifice your very self, body and blood.
We celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ because they are now the one sacrifice to restore and maintain our communion with God. We offer and receive this sacrifice in an unbloody manner, under the appearance of bread and wine, in part because Our Lord didn’t want our squeamishness to keep us from coming to him as the Bread of Life. We remember today that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ so that we never forget that a sacrifice has been made once and for all the forgiveness of sins: our sins, not his. Today let’s remember the love for us that powered that sacrifice.
Readings: Exodus 24:3–8; Psalm 116:12–13, 15–16, 17–18; Hebrews 9:11–15; Mark 14:12–16, 22–26.